During the 2012 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, Elizabeth Warren relentlessly attacked Scott Brown, who is pro-choice, as anti-woman. She won women by 18 points. Now that Brown is running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, no innovator, has copied Warren’s playbook.
During an interview with Brown Wednesday afternoon, at almost exactly the same time I asked Brown how he responds to Shaheen’s effort to cast him as anti-woman, the Shaheen campaign issued a news release claiming that Brown “can’t be trusted to stand up for women’s access to basic health services.”
Brown’s response to the Shaheen campaign copying Warren’s attacks: “Good. If they use that playbook, they lose.”
Shaheen’s campaign believes otherwise. Since Monday, Shaheen’s campaign and Senate office have issued a combined 11 news releases. Seven of them were direct appeals to women voters. Shaheen’s plan is to pull independent and Republican women into her column by portraying Brown (she is ignoring Brown’s GOP primary rivals Bob Smith and Jim Rubens) as callously indifferent to women.
Brown plans to win over those same women, and anyone else who will listen, one by one.
Brown has spent months driving his famous green pickup truck all over New Hampshire. Really, all over. He knocked on doors in Pittsburg, which has seldom received much attention from politicians not named Ray Burton. Brown says he puts 200 to 300 miles a day on his truck so he can meet voters face to face.
“That’s where it’s won,” he said Wednesday. “It’s one on one. It’s business to business. It’s fairs; it’s games.” His favorite place to campaign is the supermarket, one in particular.
“Market Basket is, quite honestly, one of the best places.” Since he does the family grocery shopping, he is there a lot, he said. Sometimes he’ll just go to meet people. “In our state, it’s retail politics.”
This week, a super PAC that backs Jim Rubens began attacking Brown for not being Republican enough. The NH PAC to Save America says Brown voted with President Obama 61 percent of the time in 2010, 70 percent in 2011 and 78 percent in 2012. Brown gives a smile when the figures are brought up. He is more than happy to talk about the charge that he is not Republican enough.
“I am actually the only person in the primary who’s a lifelong Republican,” he says. In 1993, the year before he was elected to the state Senate as a Republican, Jim Rubens helped organize a third party called the New Majority. In 1999, U.S. Sen. Bob Smith denounced the Republican Party, called it “a fraud,” and the next year ran for President on the Constitution Party ticket.
The Washington Post’s vote analyses show Brown voting with the Republican Party 81 percent of the time in the 111th Congress and 61 percent of the time in the 112th.
Brown brushes off his rivals’ criticisms and does not return them. “I respect them. I respect their supporters,” he said. He is more interested in talking about two records: his and Jeanne Shaheen’s.
Shaheen, he says, is a guaranteed vote for Obama’s failed policies, a politician who puts party first. He points to her Congressional Quarterly-certified record of voting 99 percent with Obama and says his record proves he would be a better senator for New Hampshire.
“I’m an independent voter and thinker; I always have been,” he said. “My record has always been about 50-50, give or take a few,” on partisan breakdown, he said. If sent to D.C., he would put New Hampshire first and work with both sides.
“If you want to send me down there to do nothing, I’m not your guy. ... I want to solve problems.”
But first he has to get through a primary and a general election. He is attempting that by spending every day meeting as many people as he can. “I’m running like I’m 30 points behind,” he said. “I can’t work any harder right now.”
Shaheen is working hard, too. Her campaign is almost entirely devoted to portraying Brown as a cold, heartless pawn of special interests who is indifferent to women and the non-wealthy. Those same smears worked against John Sununu in 2008. Brown hopes he can counter them by meeting as many voters as possible and letting them decide whether they believe Shaheen’s attacks or their own eyes. So if you see a guy who looks like Scott Brown pushing a shopping cart in Market Basket, it probably is him.
Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His column runs on Thursdays. You can follow him on Twitter @Drewhampshire.